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Peter Valenti

baseball player and executive, was born Henry Aaron in the Down the Bay section of Mobile, Alabama, the third of eight children of Herbert Aaron and Estella (maiden name unknown). His parents had left the Selma, Alabama, area during the Depression for greater opportunity in Mobile's shipbuilding industries. In 1942, as the family grew and Down the Bay became more crowded with wartime job seekers, the Aarons moved to a rural suburb of Toulminville. Working as a boilermaker's apprentice, Herbert Aaron suffered through the frequent layoffs that plagued black shipyard workers before wartime demand dictated full employment. Ever resourceful, Herbert Aaron bought two lots in Toulminville, hired carpenters to frame out the roof and walls of a house, and set about with his family to find materials to finish the property. The Aarons continued to live in the house even as Henry achieved superstardom.

Making balls from such scavenged ...

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Paul Finkelman

baseball player, baseball executive, civil rights advocate, and businessman. Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, the son of Herbert and Estella Aaron. He was a member of the second generation of black baseball players to enter the major leagues following Jackie Robinson's breaking of the color line in professional baseball in 1947. Aaron began playing for the Milwaukee Braves in 1954; at about the same time Willie Mays joined the New York Giants and Ernie Banks joined the Chicago Cubs. They were among the last black players who began their careers in the Negro Leagues. In 1974 Aaron broke Babe Ruth's lifetime home run record of 714. When he retired from baseball in 1976 after twenty three seasons Aaron held the career records for most home runs 755 most runs batted in 2 297 most total bases ...

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Israel Gershoni

the third and last khedive of Egypt, ruled the country from 1892 to 1914. ʿAbbas was the seventh ruler in Mehmet ʿAli’s dynasty, which was established in the early nineteenth century. ʿAbbas came to the throne at the very young age of eighteen in January 1892 after his father, Khedive Tawfiq (r. 1879–1892), died unexpectedly. Born in Cairo ʿAbbas was educated by tutors at the Thudicum in Geneva and later in the Theresianum Military Academy in Vienna.

Unlike his father, a weak ruler who was considered a puppet of the British colonial rule, the young ʿAbbas strove to restore the original khedival status as sovereign ruler, patterned after the model established by his grandfather Ismaʿil (r. 1863–1879 and to assert Egypt s unique status as a semiautonomous province within the Ottoman Empire ʿAbbas s aspirations clashed with British rule particularly with the authority of the powerful agent ...

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Marty Dobrow

basketball player, was born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, the son of Ferdinand Lewis “Al” Alcindor, a police officer with the New York Transit Authority, and Cora Alcindor, a department-store price checker. The almost thirteen-pound baby arrived in Harlem one day after the major league debut of Jackie Robinson in Brooklyn; as with Robinson, fiercely competitive athletics and the struggle against racial injustice would define much of his life.

From a young age Alcindor was introspective and intense He had an artistic sensibility drawn in part from his father a stern and silent cop who played jazz trombone and held a degree from Juilliard An only child in a strictly Catholic household he moved from Harlem at age three to the Dyckman Street projects on the northern tip of Manhattan a racially mixed middle class community In third grade he was startled to see a class photo that featured him not ...

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Christopher Phelps

a Philadelphia radio journalist who became an international icon in debates over race and the death penalty after he was convicted for the murder of a police officer, was born Wesley Cook to Edith and William Cook, migrants from the South. The family subsisted on welfare in the housing projects of North Philadelphia. As a boy Cook read avidly and sought enlightenment, attending services with his Baptist mother and Episcopalian father, then dabbling in Judaism, Catholicism, and the Nation of Islam. When he was about ten years old his father died of a heart attack, prompting him to assume a protective role toward his twin brother, Wayne, and younger brother, William.

The black liberation movement shaped Cook's coming of age. In a 1967 school class in Swahili, a Kenyan teacher assigned him the first name Mumia. In 1968 at age fourteen he and some friends protested ...

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Todd Steven Burroughs

radical prison journalist and author. Mumia Abu-Jamal was born Wesley Cook in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a teenager in the 1960s he was attracted to the Black Panther Party (BPP). Cook—christened “Mumia” by one of his high school teachers—helped form the BPP's Philadelphia chapter in spring 1969 and became the chapter's lieutenant of information. He wrote articles for the Black Panther, the party's national newspaper, and traveled to several cities to perform BPP work. He left the party in the fall of 1970 because of the split between Eldridge Cleaver and Huey Newton.

After attending Goddard College in Plainfield Vermont Cook now calling himself Mumia Abu Jamal the surname is Arabic for father of Jamal Jamal being his firstborn returned to Philadelphia and began a radio broadcasting career in the early 1970s Abu Jamal was part of the first generation of black journalists to become professional newscasters for ...

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Mpalive Msiska

Nigerian novelist, was born Albert Chinualumogu Achebe on 15 November 1930 at Saint Simon’s Church, Nneobi, near Ogidi, in British colonial Nigeria. His father, Isaiah Okafo Achebe, was a teacher and evangelist and his mother, Janet Anaenechi Iloeghunam, was from the Awka area of eastern Nigeria. Until the age of five, Achebe was brought up at a church school, where his father taught. When his father went into semiretirement in 1935 in Ogidi, Achebe became a child of two worlds, the modern world and the world of indigenous tradition. He began primary school at Saint Philip’s Central School at Akpakaogwe, Ogidi, moving on to Nekede Central School near Owerri in 1942. Achebe developed into a studious young man, passing entrance examinations for two prestigious secondary schools.

It was at Government College Umuahia which had a good library and extremely able and dedicated teachers that Achebe cultivated his love of ...

Article

Rob Fink

The first image of an African American in film occurred in 1903 with the silent movie Uncle Tom's Cabin. The twelve-minute-long movie, though, starred a white actor in blackface as the title character. For African American actors and actresses, the opportunity to appear in films, and subsequently in television and serious theater productions, took a while to develop. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the white actors who portrayed black characters, such as those who performed in D. W. Griffith'sThe Birth of a Nation in 1915, established several derogatory characters. Over the next century, black actors and actresses found themselves working against these stereotypes.

The practice of excluding African Americans from performing began during the post Civil War period and extended to all forms of acting In Wild West shows and circuses black actors and actresses were almost nonexistent The African Americans who appeared usually ...

Article

Frank Tirro

jazz saxophonist, was born Julian Edwin Adderley in Tampa, Florida, the son of Julian Carlyle Adderley, a high school guidance counselor and jazz cornet player, and Jessie Johnson, an elementary school teacher. The family moved to Tallahassee, Florida, where Adderley attended Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College High School from 1941 until 1944. He earned his bachelor's degree from Florida A&M in 1948, having studied reed and brass instruments with the band director Leander Kirksey and forming, with Kirksey, a school jazz ensemble. Adderley then worked as band director at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and jobbed with his own jazz group.

Adderley served in the army from 1950 until 1953, leading the Thirty-sixth Army Dance Band, to which his younger brother, the cornetist Nathaniel “Nat” Adderley, was also assigned. While stationed in Washington, D.C., in 1952 Adderley continued to play ...

Article

Adinkra  

Oluwatoyin Adepoju

Adinkra are visual forms that first achieved prominence among the Akan linguistic group whose members are now part of Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Its origin is uncertain but evidence suggests that it developed within the former Asante and Gyaman nations. Adinkra often involve designs that integrate striking aesthetic power, evocative mathematical structures, and philosophical conceptions ranging from the ethical to the cosmological, expressed in relation to proverbs and stories. The earliest known use of Adinkra integrates the world of the living, the departed, and the Supreme Being in designs on funeral garments. The designs evoke the understanding which each kra—the eternal essence of the person as understood in Akan thought—takes with it to the beyond, an awareness which also recalls the message the kra carried when it bade goodbye to its creator on leaving for the earth.

The earliest widely known use of Adinkra suggests the closing of ...

Article

Aaron Myers

During the 1960s and 1970s, influenced by the Civil Rights and Black Power movements in the United States and nationalist movements in Africa, Afro-Brazilians experienced a surge in black pride. This heightened black consciousness was also prompted by denouncements of racism and praises to “Mother Africa” heard in Jamaican Reggae, increasingly popular in Brazil during the 1970s. As a result, black Brazilians, especially those in cities such as Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Salvador, reaffirmed their connection with Africa and became more vocal about problems facing their community, particularly racial discrimination. This process was accelerated by the abertura (opening)—the gradual return to democratic rule that began in 1979 and loosened restrictions on free speech. In Salvador, this newfound black pride reinvigorated the old and waning afoxés and gave birth to a new type of black Carnival organization, the bloco Afro.

Afoxés emerged in the late ...

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Howard Paige and Mark H. Zanger

This entry includes two subentries:

To the Civil War

Since Emancipation

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Article

Suzanne Blier and Oluwatoyin Adepoju

This entry contains two subentries: An Overview; and Contemporary African Art.

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David N. Gellman

The African Grove Theater, also known as the American Theater and the African Theater, entertained black and white New Yorkers from 1821 to 1823. The theater, founded by the former ship steward William Brown, was the first theater in the United States owned and operated by African Americans. The theater company performed a wide array of material in a series of Manhattan locations, attracting an interracial audience while drawing ire from contemporary white commentators and competitors. The theater gave scope to the ambitions of New York's emerging free African American community, while the hostility it attracted was indicative of the refusal of many whites to accept free blacks as social or political equals. The theater also provided a stage for two pioneering African American performers, James Hewlett, who was one of the first American one-man show artists, and Ira Aldridge who went on to fame in ...

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Lupenga Mphande

Artistic forms of expression are deeply ingrained in the black cultural experience and in the lives of African peoples providing a forum for participation in the community and for exploring the mysteries of humanity The artistic forms exert a huge impact on Africa s cultural realities institutions the system of values and her vision for the future in a global context The oral art forms are the best examples of the African imaginative expression and their deployment in performance has become a rallying point for a call to an African renaissance and rejuvenation throughout the continent Although African societies have developed writing traditions Africans are primarily an oral people and it is that tradition that has dominated their cultural norms The term orature which means the artistic use of language in oral performance refers to something that is passed on through the spoken word and because it is based on ...

Article

African peoples have created hundreds of distinct religions that, despite centuries of contact with Islam and Christianity, remain important both in Africa itself and to followers in the Americas and in Europe. Approximately half of Africa's current population identify themselves as Muslim. A smaller number identify themselves as Christian or as followers of indigenous African religions, and small groups (under one million each) identify themselves as Jewish or Hindu. This essay focuses on those religions created by African peoples south of the Sahara. While there is considerable diversity in African religions, this essay will emphasize their commonalities.

Article

If by the term Afro-Latino culture, we are referring broadly to the cultural experience of Spanish-speaking black people in what has become the territory of the United States, then their role in the settlement of San Agustín, Florida, in 1565, and later in building the city's Castle of San Marcos (1672–1695) and Fort Mose (1702), places Afro-Latinos at the threshold of American history. Or perhaps, given the foundational symbolism of Jamestown (1620) and Plymouth (1607 those initial Afro Latino experiences in Spanish Florida are more the antechamber the less ceremonious advance contact between European invaders and indigenous peoples As buffers and cannon fodder as reconnaissance scouts and militiamen as intermediaries and of course as attendants and slaves Afro Latinos have been implicated in the forging of the North American story made to comply with and at the same time themselves ...

Article

Aaron Myers

Alvin Ailey was born in Rogers, Texas. He grew up in a single-parent household headed by his mother, Lula Elizabeth Cooper. As a boy, he helped her pick cotton. In 1942 they moved to Los Angeles, California, where she found employment in the World War II aircraft industry. Ailey attended George Washington Carver Junior High School and Jefferson High School, primarily black schools. He went on to study literature at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Ailey's dancing career started in 1949 when a high school friend, Carmen DeLavallade, introduced him to Lester Horton, his first dance instructor at the Lester Horton Dance Theater. When Horton died in 1953, Ailey became the director of the company. The following year, Ailey moved to New York City where he joined DeLavallade in the Broadway dance production House of Flowers While appearing in other stage ...

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Lili Cockerille Livingston

actor, dancer, and choreographer, was born in Rogers, Texas, the son of Alvin Ailey, a laborer, and Lula Elizabeth Cliff, a cotton picker and domestic. Before Ailey was a year old, his father abandoned the family, leaving them homeless for close to six years. During that time Ailey and his mother made their way, often by foot, across the unforgiving terrain of the impoverished and bitterly racist Brazos Valley in southeastern Texas to seek shelter with relatives and find work in nearby fields.A bright curious child Ailey joined his mother in the cotton fields as soon as he could carry a sack He reveled in the sights and sounds of the gospel choirs and worshipers that he witnessed in the black Baptist churches of his youth Ailey also became acquainted with the less pious side of life through those who spent Saturday nights dancing ...